San Bernardino: In Tentative Deal, County Would Take On Fire Services

SAN BERNARDINO, CA – After years of battling, the bankrupt city of San Bernardino and its fire department union have reached an all-encompassing — though tentative — agreement that would enable the city to obtain its fire protection from a county fire district, city officials say in a written statement.

The announcement was released Monday, Jan. 25, after a closed session of the San Bernardino City Council. Details of the plan are scheduled to be released by Thursday in the agenda packet for a Feb. 1 meeting when the council is expected to consider granting final approval.

“The proposed global settlement will bring a close to nearly nine years of legal disputes between the firefighters and the city,” according to the statement. “It will also assist in preventing future litigation and will save the city substantial legal costs and liabilities which would have otherwise been incurred.”

Because the plan was discussed in closed session and requires ratification of both sides, union attorney Corey Glave declined to discuss details during a phone conversation Monday.

If ratified, the city statement says, the plan “will eliminate any union opposition in relation to annexation of fire services to the (proposed) County Fire District.”

That proposed annexation is under review by the county’s Local Agency Formation Commission.

On Wednesday, LAFCO is scheduled to consider a staff recommendation to approve the annexation.

“The plan is important to the city in that it provides a means to return to the city’s coffers an estimated $7 million to $8 million for use in addressing other service deficiencies … such as police protection, roads, parks or even street lighting,” the city announcement quotes the LAFCO analysis as saying.

“LAFCO’s conclusion is right on the mark,” the announcement quotes City Attorney Gary Saenz as saying. “Although annexation comes with a special tax to property owners of $148.23 per year, those are funds (that) will go directly to improving fire service.

“This, in addition to settling with the fire union, will allow us to redirect revenue that would otherwise go to litigation or status-quo fire services to crime prevention programs, parks and community services, and economic development.”

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